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Campaigns  |  Reports

COSATU Campaigns Report:

Unions Committed to Service Delivery

April 2000

Table of Contents

Transformatory agreements
Fighting crime with POPCRU
SADTU's Vision for Quality Public Education
NEHAWU: Improving Health and Management
SAMWU: Building local government
The context: worsening conditions

On Friday, March 24, 2000, COSATU and its affiliates in the public service held a conference under the slogan, "Unions Committed to Service Delivery." All the COSATU affiliates in the public sector have demonstrated their dedication to improving service delivery and more broadly transforming the state, both in terms of their negotiations strategies and through initiatives outside of the negotiations forums. We here provide selected examples of agreements that contributed to transformation, and then some campaigns and projects undertaken by affiliates.

Transformatory agreements

We cannot detail all the transformatory agreements concluded since 1994. Here are three leading examples.

The service and skills audits, agreed in 1998, aimed to bring about a rational and well-researched restructuring of government to meet social needs. The aim was to define community needs, and determine where government structures and functions could not adequately meet those needs. On that basis, changes would be introduced. Redundancies would be dealt with as far as possible through retraining and redeployment. This was a crucial attempt at a systematic assessment of government systems. Unfortunately, the DPSA slowed down the process toward the end of last year, although it has now reaffirmed its commitment to completing it.

The teacher redeployment and rationalisation process in 1999 brought about substantial equalisation of teaching staff between schools. The process ensured much greater equity in education for all our children, by shifting teachers from relatively overstaffed schools to those with a shortage. As a result, the aim of reasonably sized classes for all could be realised.

The next phase in this process, which SADTU is pursuing through its work in the Education Labour Relations Council, is to ensure greater equality in terms of subjects in all schools. In particular, we need to ensure that all learners have equal access to maths, science and arts education.

A final example is the new disciplinary and incapacity codes for the public service, signed at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council early in 1999. These codes vastly simplify disciplinary procedures and introduce effective ways for dealing with incapacity for the public service.

Previously, these areas were regulated by complex, highly legalist requirements in the Public Service Act - a system that militated against fair and effective discipline and capacity development. That is why we saw corrupt public servants suspended for years at a time on full pay, rather than reaching a quick decision and ensuring appropriate action. It is to the credit of our affiliates that they recognised this problem and worked hard to introduce more expeditious procedures, while ensuring that their members enjoy adequate protection from unfair or untrue allegations.

SADTU's Vision for Quality Public Education

SADTU's vision is access for all to quality public education. That requires an end to cuts in education budgets, and increased resources to address the apartheid backlog. But it also requires the commitment of all stakeholders to re-establish a culture of learning, teaching and service.

SADTU - representing 220,000 educators - is rising to this responsibility. It has an extensive Code of Conduct for members, which aims to ensure constructive behaviour and discipline in the classroom. The three campaigns described here also demonstrate its commitment to quality public education.

The Curriculum Development Capacity Building Project

While Curriculum 2005 is a critical step forward for South African education, it was introduced with insufficient training and support materials. The SADTU Curriculum Development Capacity Building Project aimed to address these shortcomings. It should give teachers ownership and control over the curriculum change process, and with that the skills to act as change agents.

The project has two phases:

Phase 1 trained 72 master trainers across the nine provinces. Evaluation shows that these they are already contributing towards OBE and training in their own schools, and act as a resource that other schools and provincial departments draw on.

Phase 2 will train a core of permanent trainers in provinces who will:

  • train educators, region by region; and

  • put in place support systems around clusters of schools to sustain the professional development of teachers.

This phase has begun in those provinces where provincial education departments have bought into the project.

Phase 3 will offer accredited training in OBE to all educators.

Operation Fundisa 2000

This project is the brainchild of SADTU in the Eastern Cape, which has over 50,000 members. It mobilises education stakeholders to support the Campaign for a Culture of Learning, Teaching and Service (COLTS). SADTU plans to extend the campaign to other provinces.

COLTS aims to achieve effective school management, school governing bodies, teaching and learning, in a conducive learning environment with relevant learning materials. The Fundisa Campaign therefore commits SADTU:

  • to provide resources to conduct capacity building workshops for School Governing Bodies;

  • to discipline SADTU members who break the Union's Code of Conduct (misconduct is defined in considerable detail);

  • to facilitate summer and winter schools for learners;

  • to form Learning Programme Development Committees (LPDCs) to support teachers, especially in the 'problem' subjects that have been identified;

  • to facilitate training for teachers and LPDCs to prepare relevant learning materials.

HIV/Aids Education Pilot Project

In collaboration with the Departments of Education and Health and the World Health Organisation, SADTU has launched a campaign:

  • to provide training to grade 1 to 4 teachers to capacitate them to implement HIV/Aids Life Skills Programmes in the classroom.

  • to design PRESET courses for inclusion of HIV/Aids education in the core curriculum for teacher training.

SAMWU: Building local government

SAMWU has long argued that the public sector can provide services, especially in poor communities, more efficiently than private or autonomous providers - given support from stakeholders and adequate resources. It has not just paid lip service to this ideal, as the following programmes show.

Extending water supply in Odi

The municipalities of Winterveldt, Mabopane and the Eastern District council fell under the homeland of Bophutatswana, and although near Pretoria had completely inadequate water supplies. Over a third of the households earn less than R1000 a month, and the area is classified largely as indigent.

SAMWU worked together with the local governments, the Rand Water Board, and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry to bring water to these communities. Rand Water Board agreed it would only recover its costs, without a profit; Water Affairs provides a reducing subsidy. The communities agreed to keep consumption at affordable limits, maintain payments by households who can afford it, and end unauthorised connections.

As a result, the entire community now has water, and revenue collection is up from R500 000 to over R2 million. Some of the income will be used to extend pipelines to Madidi village and to provide sanitation.

Because of the success of this project, Rand Water is starting a similar venture in Harrismith.

Water repairs

In Gugulethu, Langa and other communities around Cape Town, water leakages over a long period led to huge losses for the Council. SAMWU launched a campaign to mobilise the community to identify and fix leaking pipes. The Council co-operated by providing the necessary equipment.

As a result of this project, the Council is saving about R10 million a year - money which can be used to extend water to more households.

Clean up campaign

In Soweto, SAMWU members engaged on a clean-up campaign, in co-operation with the community. The municipal council provided trucks and other equipment.

Extending emergency services in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape

In providing ambulance services, SAMWU members have re-organised their work to improve coverage.

In the West Rand, in Carletonville, Krugersdorp and Randfontein, members pooled resources to ensure vehicles were available for nearby townships. In the past, residents often had to wait long for ambulances; pooling the vehicles brought substantial improvements, although considerable work has still to be done.

A similar project initiated by SAMWU members in Port Elizabeth improved services to Uitenhage and outlying rural communities.

Fighting crime with POPCRU

POPCRU found that too much policing remained reactive, without fostering the necessary community support. If this situation continues, efficient policing will always remain a theory and paper work, not a reality.

For this reason, POPCRU embarked on an anti-crime campaign. It aimed to improve morale and dedication among members; build a collective bond with communities, and especially the youth and other workers, to fight crime; extend the understanding of pro-active and collective policing; establish a productive, creative and inclusive policing network relevant to key social institutions such as schools, labour, churches and NGOs; and transform Community Policing Forums so that they are truly co-owned by communities and the justice system.

To carry out the campaign, POPCRU mobilised members:

  • to extend foot patrols;

  • to maximise security measures in prisons, courts and police cells, and to support rehabilitation as far as possible,

  • to improve community counselling and road advice on crime and other socio-economic problems;

  • to engage in empowerment and information discussions to build social safety and solidarity against social disorder;

  • to engage in and manage decentralised anti-crime campaigns in each province;

  • to draw on members on rest days or vacation to support members on duty;

  • to ensure respect for human rights; and

  • to get members involved in community structures such as street committees and neighbourhood watches.

In the campaign, POPCRU aims to collaborate closely with local government structures as well as other stakeholders.

NEHAWU: Improving Health and Management

Since 1994, NEHAWU has been involved in a host of initiatives to improve services in communities. Here are some examples.

People's Hospital Project

Through this project, started in 1998 in co-operation with a sister union from Cuba, Nehawu has been studying the organisation and efficient delivery of health services in the most people-centred and worker-friendly manner possible. On that basis, it can develop and implement pilots to transform healthcare delivery at institutional level.

Nehawu has started pilot project to train shop stewards and hospital managers in alternative ways of organising healthcare delivery. This provides an alternative to the "managerialist" approach, which just tries to make public health care mimic the private sector. The Derdepoort Hospital in North West Province is one of our success stories. This hospital, on the border of Botswana and South Africa, provides healthcare to 13 villages. The North West government wanted to privatize it by selling it to a consortium. Nehawu and the community demanded it stay in community hands. Our members, the community and progressive managers at Derdepoort are running the hospital co-operatively, ensuring affordable healthcare. The main problem now is that the government has stopped providing medicines as a form of punishment to workers and the community.

Also through the People's Hospital project, in 1999 Nehawu members at Chris Hani Baragwanath donated blankets for patients at the hospital to replace old and worn out linen.

Fighting corruption

Nehawu has been mobilizing workers in every workplace to expose acts of corruption and, in the Eastern Cape and Northern Province, to root out so-called ghost workers. Unfortunately, in many instances where managers are involved, union members get victimized for exposing corruption. National and provincial governments have failed to take action in these cases. For instance, at Tambo Memorial Hospital (former Boksburg-Benoni), workers are victimized for reporting senior doctors who are abusing the public hospital for private practice. NEHAWU has decided to mobilise surrounding communities against those that are abusing public resources and expose government officials who seem to be undermining the anti-corruption campaign.

HIV/AIDS training for frontline Health workers and community activists

NEHAWU has been in the forefront of the campaign against HIV/AIDS, going to every public sector workplace to spread the awareness message. It has built alliances with community groups and social movements around combating the spread of the pandemic. Most healthcare professionals have serious attitude problems to HIV patients. Our healthcare cadres are extremely under-prepared to deal with this large-scale problem. Most public hospital wards are overpopulated with AIDS infected children and adults. And yet most nurses and doctors do not know how to deal with HIV/AIDS patients.

Currently, NEHAWU is working with the University of Cape Town to conduct training on a large scale for nurses, doctors, paramedics and community activists. This programme has begun to have a very positive impact on healthcare delivery.

In the next two years, NEHAWU intends to expand its training for healthcare workers and community activists in this important area.

Transformative Manager Development Programme

This programme aims:

  • To develop an understanding of the "management function" in public service and transformative context;

  • To develop a new management cadre that has a working class perspective on the organisation and delivery of public services;

  • To develop management skills for rank-and-file members; and

  • To begin to introduce self-management and co-operative management models in public service institutions.

The sad reality of the current public service is management capacity is weak at all levels, and the old apartheid style of management is still dominant in public service institutions. Where there has been change of faces, the new managers either resort to inappropriate "private sector" models of service delivery or they simply go back to authoritarian apartheid models. All these models have a common thrust - they privilege rules and procedures (apartheid style) as well as cost cutting and financial efficiency over people.

NEHAWU has developed a set of guidelines for training what it calls a "transformative manager." These guidelines are now being translated into a training programme that will be run jointly with Fort Hare and UWC Schools of Governance and Wits P &DM.

This project, taken together with a massive skills development programme in the public service, will go a long way in improving service delivery through the development of a new public service cadre that is loyal and committed to the mission of transforming both the state and society.

The context: worsening conditions

While COSATU applauds the dedication of public servants and their unions to improving services, it is important to understand that individual efforts are not enough - and that, equally, the failure of individuals to carry out their jobs is not the fundamental cause of poor service delivery in this country.

Service are bad in South Africa, first and foremost, because of the history of apartheid that deprived services in black communities of the infrastructure and skills they need. For instance, in 1996 the School Register of Needs found that:

  • 60 per cent of our schools have only bucket or unimproved pit toilets,

  • 60 per cent do not have telephones,

  • 52 per cent do not have electricity, and

  • 17 per cent do not have running water within walking distance.

Virtually all of these deprived schools are in black areas, especially former homelands. And of course, we all know about the shortages of textbooks and training for teachers in dealing with the new curriculum. One in seven educators, virtually all in rural African schools, does not have full teaching qualifications.

Given these conditions, does it make sense to say the matric pass rate is low because teachers aren't working hard enough? That does not excuse teachers who are not pulling their weight. But to improve the situation, and to deal with demoralisation, we must look at all the factors that affect the quality of education. We cannot use workers as scapegoats for the failure to introduce more effective systems and provide the resources needed to accelerate service delivery.

A particular factor of concern is the cuts in the budget for the big social services - cuts that have led to renewed calls for cuts in services and personnel. In this past year, the budget declined in real terms for all functions except defence, skills development, general administration and the contingency reserve. That means that health, education, policing and welfare stagnated or fell. Infrastructure fell even faster in real terms. This year's cut in funding adds to the overall shrinkage since 1997, which has seen a 5-per-cent cut in the overall budget.

To ask public servants to make good this fall by working harder ignores the realities. Without adequate medicines, textbooks, police cars or telephones, public servants cannot improve services. Even in the poorest communities, which are somewhat protected because of policies aimed to equalise services, we are engaged in a desperate struggle simply to maintain existing standards.

COSATU argues that the policy of setting tight deficit targets has caused unnecessary budget cuts, and should be revised.

But the public service unions have also endorsed proposals that would free up funds for improving services even within the current deficit targets. These proposals are:

  • To reduce the employer contribution to the Government Employees Pension Fund and its funding level in order to increase spending on the major services and infrastructure to 1997 levels. This would bring the Fund some way back to a more affordable pay-as-you-go system.

  • To keep the benefits of efficiency gains by the Revenue Services, rather than giving them as tax cuts, in order to improve service delivery. Since the last round of tax cuts was deeply regressive, benefiting the poor more than the rich, this proposal will go far to improving equity.

Despite the worsening environment for service delivery, COSATU emphasises the critical role that organs of people's power and individual members of our society can play to improve service and orient the culture of the public sector more to service delivery. We reiterate the call we have made for workers and the rest of society to participate in school governing bodies, hospital boards, community policing forums, and similar bodies.

The environment that must lead to improved service delivery must be improved overall. Unions and workers must play a critical role in changing the culture. Government must provide adequate resources and deal with persisting inequalities. All of our people must develop consciousness as citizens and play a role in monitoring and solving local obstacles to delivery. Only when these forces work more in partnership with each other can we be guaranteed a better life.

As workers, COSATU and its affiliates are taking the lead. We call on all others to join us in the struggle to improve service delivery to our people.